Author, Actor, Playwright, Excellent Parallel Parker

Rules of the Lake and Ashes to Water are now available for Kindle and Nook!

Friday, February 18, 2011

How the Reading Went: Full Plate Collection in NYC

(I'm talking a short break from Lady Aston's Barnstone Salon to report on the recent  happenings regarding my play, Full Plate Collection. We'll return to the Barnstone Salon tomorrow with Tim Monsion and "The Fancy Dress Dinner.")

On February 12, the Mister and I drove to NYC to hear Full Plate Collection read by the acting interns at The Barrow Group, a theater located in the garment district. This was a profoundly neat experience for several reasons, but let me thank Becca Worthington right off the bat, for picking my play out of the slush pile. For a girl who grew up on a dirt road, a reading in NYC is about as big-time as it gets. Thank you, Becca, for the honor.

A reading, by the way, is the next best thing to production. Readings are often attended by people looking for the next new voice.
FPC was originally produced in Richmond in partnership with Barksdale Theatre. I am indebted to LOTS of people for its successful run, most notably Erin Thomas, Bruce Miller, and the director, Keri Wormald. After the run ended, I began casting about for more production opportunities, which is how the play ended up at The Barrow Group.

For the uninitiated, allow me to give a brief explanation of how a playwright goes about getting her play produced. You have a couple a ways to go. There's the

1) Citizen Kane Approach, in which you marry a rich person who personally finances a production at a theater so desperate for money it doesn't care if you're talented or not.

2) The Casting Couch Approach, in which you sleep with a producer who uses his/her influence to get your play produced.

3) The Agent Approach, in which you sleep with a literary agent who handles new plays and (ahem) playwrights, who then sends your play to theaters that produce new plays.

4) The Casting About Aimlessly Approach, in which you sleep with your spouse and send your play to every theater in the Dramatists Guild Resource Directory listed as "accepts new play submissions." This method takes time, is costly, and rarely succeeds, because most theaters don't have the money to pay someone to read the volume of plays that suffocate their in boxes. You might have better luck if an advocate hands your play to the artistic director, someone who knows you and believes in your work, but even then, who has time to read a play?

5) The Screaming in a Crowded Room Approach, in which you don't sleep at all. Instead, you spend all your time building a social media "platform" whereby you attempt to connect with theatre professionals through FaceBook, Twitter, Linkd In, and other black e-holes.

6) The Answer the Call Approach, in which you figure out  where theaters "call" for plays, and submit your play to those theaters who are actually LOOKING for the kind of play you have written.

7) The Lightning Strike Approach, in which you sleep all the time while waiting for lighting to strike, because (as we all know), it's not about how talented you are; it's about who you sleep with, and only a lucky lightning strike will take you to the next level, so why bother?

There are other approaches, of course, and you are encouraged to try new and unusual ways to get your play read or produced, like using KickStarter, or hitting up friends and family for money to produce your play yourself.

Me, I opted for 4 & 6.

Of the dozens of theaters contacted, I heard from The Barrow Group, an Off-Broadway Theater. Becca (who also happens to be from Richmond--lightning strike!) made it clear to me that the theatre would NOT be producing my play, but she would like to arrange a reading of it as part of their Reading Series for Acting Interns.

The Barrow Group has an acting school for interns, and the play would be perfect them, Becca told me. There's no money involved, no travel perks; only the opportunity to hear my play read by talented actors who can bring the script to life. A reading is a scaled down performance: actors carry scripts. There are no costumes, props, or staging, and only minimal movement. The purpose is to let the playwright hear her words, and get feedback from the actors and those in attendance.

What a rewarding experience! Director Rachel Gay (who stage managed an earlier production of the play) directed eight young women in two rehearsals. They were great. The play has a few musical numbers, and they handled the songs brilliantly. Each actor played at least three roles (some played four), and their choices were funny, smart, and spot on. Rather than listen critically (as I intended), I got lost in the performance. The audience members laughed, the actors looked like they were having fun, and I was so proud I coulda busted.

During the talkback afterward, I learned that I should either write more songs or eliminate them altogether (I'm leaning toward eliminating them, but could be talked out of it), and that the "message" was not as heavy handed as I had feared. The actors told me they really appreciated being able to read a comedy, and particularly liked playing more than one role. The word that kept coming up was "fun."

I'll take Fun! I'll take Fun every day of the week!

Afterwards, the Mister and I went to dinner with my friend Theresa McElwee who came to the reading. That reminds me. I need to write a review of the restaurant across the street from the theater, the Staghorn Steakhouse on 36th Street. Don't go there. We were not treated well.

But I digress.

The next day, the Mister and I went to the Body Exhibit (recommended), then we drove home

And that's how it went. Like I said, profoundly neat. Thank you very much to Becca, Rachel, and all involved.


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